Former Deputy Mayor Tekinder Singh Panwar said that cost of water and sewage being disproportionately increased by the Shimla Jal Nigam Prabandhan Limited (SJNPL) awarding fresh bid prices, soaring it from Rs 450 crore to an alarming Rs 900 crore in just a few months.
Former Dy Mayor Tikender Singh Panwar who launched an Anti Corruption front last year revealed that corruption and financial irregularities prevailing within the SJNPL while amending bids for water utility and sewage in the Shimla Planning Area to maximize profits to a French company which would force the People of town in future to pay hefty bills of water and sewerage.
Seeking to probe the matter by the Special Investigation team he said that utility’s performance-based contracts have come under scrutiny, with bid prices reportedly soaring from Rs 450 crore to an alarming Rs 900 crore in just a few months.
He informed that in the previous bid (last time) the NPV of the first and second bidders was Rs 693 crore and 683 crore, respectively.
This was canceled due to a huge difference between the budget and the bids. “ However six months later this time both the firms have further escalated the price considerably and this effort smacks of deep-rooted cartelization as well.
The bids are at Rs 815, and 794 crores, respectively, he informed. “How can there be such a big increase in the cost in just six months?”, questioned Panwar.
He said that he is seeking SIT not only to delve into the financial losses incurred by the utility but also to uncover systemic failures in policy frameworks over the past decades, which have contributed to recurrent disasters in the region.
Taking an example of contracts awarded for managing the Sewage treatment plants, he informed that the total Govt. exchequer loss excess amount was Rs.722 lakh per year emulating a total difference of 2166 lakh in three years, which needs to be probed.
In the case of the Malyana treatment plant, the total award value for Operations and maintenance of this plant was Rs 26 lakh per annum till 2015. However after SJPNL was formed in 2018, the same award value went up to Rs 184 lacs, which should be looked into, he asserted.
Former Dy Mayor said that SJNPL’s unchecked functioning and lack of democratic oversight have allowed corruption to fester, leading to the unjust inflation of contract prices.
The need for immediate intervention and prosecution of those responsible is emphasized, with calls to transfer the utility’s responsibilities to the Shimla Municipal Corporation, an elected institution championed by the 74th constitutional amendment and endorsed by recent World Bank reports on urban infrastructure.
Here it is pertinent to mention that contrary to claims of various State governments, the water supply in Shimla, has not improved substantially even after the formation of SJPNL.
Mostly water supply in the city remains erratic as in summers water dries up, in rainy season muck in the water takes a toll and many parts of the town are deprived of potable water supply for even 4-5 days in a row.
As the controversy continues to unravel, the spotlight remains on the urgent necessity for a comprehensive inquiry into the SJNPL’s operations and the broader policy landscape, seeking to bring transparency, accountability, and improved governance to Shimla’s vital water and sewage systems, he added.